by: The Rad Baron
I've been cruising around on my All-City Cycles Nature Boy single speed cyclocross bike for about 3 years now. At various stages it's been bike camping, it's been my primary commuter, it's been my trail bike, it's raced gravel grinders, it's raced a season of cyclocross, and it's even been carried over the barriers during a US National Championship race. I felt this has given me sufficient experience to dish on this one geared badboy.
Choosing the bike:
I chose the size (58) based off the measurements of my road bike (size 60.) Despite the difference in marked size the two bikes are actually sized very similarly. Compared to my Cannondale CAAD 10 road bike, the All-City Nature Boy is half a cm shorter up front, half a cm longer out back, very similar or even identical angles all around, same seat tube length, same stand-over, same BB height. All-City has a reputation for sizing their bikes running big and I definitely found this to be the case. The bike fits me very well, but even minor fit adjustments have a pretty profound effect on the way the bike feels. Push the saddle back and drop the stem and it feels like a true road racing bike (albeit with 1 gear) or, with the saddle in the more neutral position and the bars up a bit higher it feels more like riding a rigid mountain bike.
If you are building the bike up from a frameset you will need to keep in mind it is spaced for standard road hubs not for 120 track hubs. If you are buying complete you will still have to keep this in mind because the wheels weigh a billion pounds and you will want to replace them. All and all the build is great for commuting but not appropriate for racing or trail riding. I also found the brakes to be crappy, so i replaced them with mini-vees and sram levers. I've actually replaced everything on the bike over the years except the stem and the sweet, sweet salsa cowbells it came with. I couldn't be happier with the build now. H Plus Son Rims mated to Surly ultra new hubs, FSA compact gearing, TRP mini-vees, a light weight ass-hammer of a saddle from the scarlet S, and some Panaracer shoes top it off. The thing rips.
Over the period I have owned this bike I am pretty sure it has gotten the most miles of riding on any terrain of any bike I own. That's something for a bike with 1 gear ratio. This bike is a total grin machine. It's the Greateskape mantra in steel form. It's super fun ripping around town, hopping curbs, and dropping into short stretches of dirt that lie off the sides of sidewalks and through city parks all around town. It's also a capable if not challenging whip for mountain bike trails from Rosaryville to bootleg dirt ribbons off the C&O canal trail. With bike camping bags its stable and efficient, but lightened up it made a great race bike for the 2015 cyclocross season. I raced it against geared bikes most of the season in cat 4/5 and never really felt the bike held me back, especially after upgrading the wheel-set to a lighter pair of hoops. Now that spring has started to materialize I have been riding it to work again so that I can sneak out a little early and play in the dirt on the long way home.
This thing will be my go-to shred sled fun machine for years to come. With a new All-City Macho Man geared cross bike build in the works the Nature Boy will be mostly relieved of its racing duties - but it will never be just a pit bike.